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Dr C H Asrani about Family Medicine

Dr C H Asrani

Whenever I met Family Physicians, friends & colleagues, they would be concerned about one factor, the current state and doubts about the future of General Practice. Most had experienced new phenomena that today, patients would prefer to visit specialists and super specialist. The Family Physician was under threat and was being increasingly marginalized!

Despite being a Family Physician, I never shared this widespread experience and it made me think. It made me question and judge expectations & behaviour.

Why do patients reduce the importance and critical role of the Family Physician?
Is it that they are not able to understand the critical role played by the GP or is there something else?
Why is it that some GP's do not share this complaint?
Why is it that some patients insist on their GP's advice before they visit any specialist?

I would urge my fellow Family Physicians to first do some introspection. Examine your practice, judge whether or not you are offering enough to get the kind of compliance you should get from patients.

Today, even a MNC has to constantly strive to sustain its popular brand by continually offering a better product, better service and most importantly grievance redressal of the consumer. How can we retain patients and earn their respect unless we strengthen our role & relevance by offering a better & more comprehensive service.

The mission of Family Medicine is to provide

  • accessible
  • high quality
  • cost-effective
  • customer-focused
  • multi disciplinary and
  • compassionate health care.

Each of the above variables is significant and was noticeably present in the Family Doctor of yesteryears. Today, how can we expect to enjoy the respect and virtual demi God status accorded to our fore fathers without actually delivering all these aspects of Comprehensive healthcare - something our patients rightfully expect us to deliver.

Comprehensive approach implies care of individuals and families using clinical, behavioral and social aspects and lastly referrals and specialist consultations. Emphasis is on the diagnosis and cost effective management of common day to day problems requiring ambulatory care.

Today the General practitioner, by and large, just wants to refer and NOT be responsible for diagnosing and treatment.

There exists another genre of General practitioner who tries to get the coveted Diplomate National Board of Family Medicine, who spends at least 15-20 hours per week in Continuing Medical Education, who is net savvy and updates regularly.

This General practitioner calls himself "Master of ALL; Jack of NONE".

The basic difference is of attitude - start thinking that 'I am a Primary Care Provider and my task / responsibility is to provide PRIMARY healthcare to the consumer with minimal referral'.

The age old custom of 2-3 generations of a family going to the same General Practitioner was what we today call Customer Retention. This is one aspect that we Medicos have to closely look at.

How is such Customer Retention possible, even today?

Well, by providing all that our fore fathers provided in the name of General Practice and that is ONLY possible by taking GOOD care, medical and other, of the enlightened consumer.

How do we keep track of the fast changing world of medicine when every single day there are advancements in techniques, technology & consumer expectations?
How do we educate ourselves? How do we retain relevance? How do we guide patients into taking the right decisions? How do we separate the facts from the marketing hype? How do we build our practice to ensure that we have a good life for us and our families? How de we reach out to others and learn from their experience so that we do not repeat their mistakes and benefit from their experience? How do we secure our position in the highly competitive world?

This, my fellow practitioners, is the Raison D'être of creating IDG.